Professor Richard Pettigrew - inaugural lecture

Professor of Philosophy Professor Richard Pettigrew
Department of Philosophy
This lecture took place on 3 March 2015

The art of thinking

For the past fifty years, psychologists have documented the various ways in which we are irrational; they have described the many biases and fallacies to which we are prone. For many years more, philosophers, logicians, and statisticians have tried to codify the rules of rational thought. But how can we discover these rules? How is it possible to use reason to investigate its own proper function? What role can philosophy play in addressing these problems? I explore one strategy that I have developed over the past five years for justifying the principles of statistical inference. In the second half of the lecture, I turn from academic questions to questions about the academy. I reflect on the effects that some of these irrational biases have had on the diversity of participation in academic institutions. I describe the catastrophic under-representation of certain groups that has resulted, both amongst the academic staff and amongst the student body; and I discuss how we might think differently about participation in academic life order to reverse these trends.